27 May, 2022

Spiral hose helps continuous miners reduce downtime in South Africa

29 April, 2015

Power management company Eaton’s Aeroquip X-Flex very high pressure spiral hose has been performing to expectations and helping manufacturers servicing continuous miners operating in highly abrasive environments in South Africa to meet their contracted coal extraction rate terms by increasing uptime and decreasing maintenance and service times.

South Africa is one of the ten largest coal producers and the fourth largest coal exporting country in the world. As the coal seams here are buried too deep beneath the ground for opencast mining, they are deep mined using a room and pillar technique. The mine site is divided into a series of rooms that are cut into the coal bed using continuous miners; these machines extract the coal whilst digging a hole at the same time and can mine as much as five tons of coal a minute. Once the coal is removed, the ceiling is shored up with pillars to prevent it from collapse.

The cost of downtime

Downtime on these continuous miners could cost the mine up to US$10,000 per hour in lost production – a cost so high that some mines measure this downtime in minutes. There are many factors that can cause downtime, but the majority of cases are due to hydraulic hose assembly failure.

“Eaton’s route to market for South Africa’s mining industry is through a distribution network for which we supply hydraulic assemblies, fittings and accessories,” explained Jorge De Lima, team lead sales for Southern Africa for Eaton’s Hydraulics business. “Many of these companies are contracted by the mine to ensure that the continuous miners meet or exceed a certain rate per tonne of coal extracted, which is why avoiding downtime is of the utmost importance.”

[subhead] Hose and fitting

The area on a continuous miner where most breakdowns occur is on shear cylinders that move the cutting bobbin. Upon daily servicing, these areas are cleared of coal debris and the assembly is checked for any cuts, signs of abrasion or visible leaks from the threaded connection. In disciplined sites, the preferred hose used on these machines is Eaton’s GH506, which is claimed to offer excellent performance when cleaned and serviced regularly. The hose end fitting features a special wire trap design that requires the hose to be both externally and internally skived to help ensure hose and fitting integrity under impulse conditions.

“At one particular mine site, which operated several continuous miners, the total annual downtime caused by the failure of hydraulic hose assemblies was 9000 minutes – this equates to approximately $1.5 million in lost production,” commented De Lima. “Here, the servicing regime had gradually relaxed over time and the hose assembly was failing.”

While the supplier was contracted to ensure that the continuous miners met or exceeded the set rate per tonne of coal extracted, it couldn’t influence the rigor of the daily service regime. To overcome this challenge, the supplier replaced the original GH506 hose assembly with Eaton’s higher specification Aeroquip X-Flex hose.

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